Our incubation is moving along nicely. Yesterday we did the day 10 candling. I love candling at day 10 because with the easier-to-see-through eggs you can see the baby chick bee-boppin’ around in there. We were checking for any early deaths as well as keeping an eye on our air cell sizes. We watch the air cells as the hatch goes along to help us determine if our humidity is at a good level.
As the egg loses moisture the air cell gets larger. The humidity level in the incubator determines how much moisture the egg loses. It is a very very important part of successful hatching. Too much or too little can ruin a hatch. Most incubators have a couple of separated trays in the bottom of them for water. An example is an incubator that you are supposed to keep water in tray 1 for days 1-17 and then keep water in both tray 1 & 2 for days 18-hatch. The problem with this is that it doesn’t give much control over the humidity because you only have two trays and they are a pre-set size made by the manufacturer. With hatching at high-altitude you need different humidity levels than at lower elevations. Add to that the fact that some seasons and places are more humid in general and some seasons and places are more dry. You can see how just having two trays is not ideal for accurate humidity.
So, what do you do when the trays in your incubator are not giving you the humidity you need for your incubation?
Depending on the space inside your incubator you need to find some small containers that fit in it that can hold water. I have found that cutting off part of one of these plastic egg cartons is just perfect for our incubator.
I set it in beside the egg turner and it fit just right. I then added water to one of the sections, waited 30 minutes and checked my humidity. It was too low so I added water to a second section, waited 30 minutes and checked the humidity again. I continued to do this until I had the humidity where I wanted it. Then it is easy to maintain by keeping those sections filled to the level they need to be.
Because humidity has more to do with the surface area of the water than the depth of water, the fact that these little containers get wider as you go up gives you even more precise control. As you can see in the picture, 3 and 1/2 sections is what gave me the humidity I was aiming for. But at a different time of year a different number of sections might be what is needed to achieve the correct humidity level even when we put the incubator in the same location in our house.
It is VERY IMPORTANT not to use containers such as this during the actual hatching process. ONLY during the incubation. A chick can drown in these when it is first out of the egg and weak. We always use the tray provided in the bottom of the incubator under the wire mesh, along with extra wet sponges above the mesh if necessary to obtain humidity during lock down (days 18-hatch).
Being able to more precisely control the humidity in the incubator has really helped us have more and more success with our hatching. As always, we keep really careful records so we can learn from our experience and continue to improve with our high-altitude hatching.